RUS­SIA PROBE: Jus­tice De­part­ment ap­points for­mer FBI di­rec­tor Robert Mueller to in­ves­ti­gate Moscow deal­ings

For­mer FBI di­rec­tor Robert Mueller to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­sia deal­ings

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

— The I-word has en­tered the Wash­ing­ton vo­cab­u­lary. That for­bid­den word — the 11let­ter path­way to po­lit­i­cal damna­tion, is sud­denly, timidly, tip­toe­ing onto the tongues of cap­i­tald­wellers.

A Demo­crat sug­gested it on the floor of Congress on Wed­nes­day. A Repub­li­can con­ceded it might be a pos­si­bil­ity. And an In­de­pen­dent ex­pressed re­gret about hav­ing to even men­tion the fear-in­duc­ing noun. Im­peach­ment. “The pres­i­dent must be im­peached,” said Demo­crat Al Green, rais­ing it on the con­gres­sional floor Wed­nes­day. “This is not some­thing to be taken lightly. And I do not ... It’s a po­si­tion of con­science for me.”

The fact that it’s trav­elled in just one week from the realm of lib­eral bar­room fan­ta­siz­ing to open dis­cus­sion in the hall­ways of Congress in­di­cates the de­gree of tur­moil caused to Trump’s pres­i­dency in just a few days.

To be sure, im­peach­ment re­mains a dis­tant hy­po­thet­i­cal threat. The more im­me­di­ate con­cern for Trump is the mount­ing pile of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, with new el­e­ments added Wed­nes­day.

The big­gest de­vel­op­ment was the Jus­tice De­part­ment an­nounc­ing the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel in the Rus­sia probe. It will led by Robert Mueller, the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor who pre­ceded the now-fired James Comey.

How did this hap­pen? It’s been less than two weeks since the pres­i­dent held a vic­tory party on the White House lawn, sur­rounded by ju­bi­lant Repub­li­cans, as they cel­e­brated the par­tial pas­sage of a health-re­form bill.

But it turns out a pres­i­dent can ac­cu­mu­late lots of dam­age by fir­ing an FBI di­rec­tor; chang­ing the story about why; be­com­ing the tar­get of a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s ex­pand­ing into money-laun­der­ing; shar­ing in­tel­li­gence with Rus­sia, to the dis­may of al­lies; be­ing ac­cused of in­ter­fer­ing with a po­lice probe; chew­ing out his staff; and see­ing en­e­mies within gov­ern­ment leak con­stantly to the press.

Trump fumed about it in a speech to grad­u­ates of the Coast Guard Academy.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, es­pe­cially by the me­dia,” Trump told the cer­e­mony on Wed­nes­day. “No politi­cian in his­tory — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more un­fairly.”

A per­cep­ti­ble shift has oc­curred. It hap­pened the in­stant news re­ports sur­faced say­ing that Comey kept a di­ary of his in­ter­ac­tions with the pres­i­dent and in it the pres­i­dent pur­port­edly asked him to cut short a Rus­sia-re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

That hint of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice was a turn­ing point for many — in­clud­ing Repub­li­cans, who are in­creas­ingly on Trump’s case as the pres­i­dent watches the de­fen­sive wall around him be­gin to crum­ble.

Three com­mit­tees, all con­trolled by Repub­li­cans, have re­quested Comey’s records. Two have asked the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor to tes­tify. One has asked for money-laun­der­ing records from the U.S. Trea­sury De­part­ment.

A few Repub­li­cans have even joined calls for a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor or in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

One law­maker from a ruby-red con­ser­va­tive district, Adam Kinzinger, told CNN: “This has raised real red flags in the level of se­ri­ous­ness. This is about Amer­ica. It’s not about our po­lit­i­cal par­ties, or our po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.”

Democrats, mean­while, are us­ing their mea­gre mi­nor­ity power to push the White House to re­lease tran­scripts of the Oval Of­fice con­ver­sa­tion with Rus­sian of­fi­cials, and to re­lease any tapes of Comey talk­ing to Trump — the ex­is­tence of which the pres­i­dent has hinted at.

They also want to see Comey’s memos, as well as the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor him­self, tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore Congress.

Top Se­nate Demo­crat Chuck Schumer said it’s about pre­serv­ing po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions in the U.S.: “These re­quests are rea­son­able. They’re mod­est. To my col­leagues on other side: Amer­ica needs you. Amer­ica needs you now … His­tory will judge us.”

He’s not among those ut­ter­ing the noun of pres­i­den­tial doom.

DREW ANGERER, GETTY IM­AGES

Don­ald Trump told grad­u­ates at the com­mence­ment cer­e­mony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that no pres­i­dent has been treated worse than he has.

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